Developer / Project lead without degree or portfolio chances in JP job market

Hello everyone,

I’m a 34 year old German software developer and project manager who is just starting to learn Japanese (I can read and write Hiragana but almost no Katakana or Kanji after 5 weeks).

I will go to Japan in April to meet my girlfriend and then we want to make plans how to live together and not being far from each other anymore. For that purpose I was already looking at job listing webpages and it seems that you need Business or Native Japanese for almost each job regardless of the content of the job.

Also it seems that the market just needs mobile or AI development but I feel too stupid for AI/ML development :cry:
Another thing I noticed is that almost all the developer jobs are only offered in Tokyo. I would like to find a job in Osaka or at least be able to work from Osaka so my girlfriend wouldn’t need to change jobs.
Are there some local communities in Osaka that I could talk to while being in Japan in April?

My background:

  • I canceled studying 2 times, so no university degree (no 4 year degree).
  • I got an apprenticeship afterwards as software developer and worked since then (10 years working as developer and/or project lead).
  • I introduced software to customers, analyzed their processes and developed solutions based on that and trained them.
  • In the last 3 years I was mainly developing .Net Core Backend with C# and Frontend with React (but not so used to React).
  • I’m also leading multiple 6 figure projects within a company that delivers products to biopharma industry so they are ‘hidden’ and not publicly visible.
  • I don’t have a public git account or anything.

From what I read my CV would basically be like a puzzle or non-understandable to Japanese companies because I could not provide any certificates, portfolio or something comparable to a 4 year degree.
That’s why I would probably also not be eligible for that point-system-visa despite the achievements I have?

I think I could polish my React.js skills to be able to fluently code with that again but I’d rather take on backend development with C# or be a project lead again.
Is this feasible or should I get some kind of certificates / portfolio or will the companies also be willing to provide some kind of trust first to see that I am really able to do the needed things?

I’m also a bit worried about Japanese working hours… :smiley: Currently I have a 35 hour contract and in Japan this would probably end up at 50-60 hours except for startups but they probably don’t provide the security that I would need to be able to settle down with my girlfriend. Don’t want to end up chasing jobs each 6 months…

I’m open to any ideas and recommendations.

Thank you in advance

While it’s not a guarantee anyone will be able to get a job in Japan, I think your situation isn’t so bad. Some comments:

  • It sounds like you have 10 years relevant working experience, so you should be eligible for a working visa despite not having a degree.
  • While most jobs in Japan will require Japanese skills, there’s plenty of options for developers who don’t speak any Japanese (e.g. most positions listed on TokyoDev).
  • The majority of companies that are listed on TokyoDev offer the option to work fully remotely, so it doesn’t matter that they are headquartered in Tokyo.
  • Most international developers do live in Tokyo, so it could be worthwhile looking for events to attend here, even if you want to end up in Osaka.
  • Only 26% of international developers in Japan reported working more than 40 hours per week.
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Hi pwim,

thank you for your answers.
I think 1 out of 4 working more than 40 hours is still quite a lot :smiley:

Would I need to apply for the visa by myself in advance to finding a job or would it be better to just apply for jobs that offer sponsoring? Do companies that offer sponsoring renew the visa by themselves or just at the initial hire and I have to take care of renewal?

I also want to know about the tech stacks again: I didn’t find a lot of jobs fitting me on TokyoDev because almost all of them are React, Node, Ruby, Python, PHP or Kotlin and a lot are using AI/ML.

C# seems to be quite rare. Is it because C# is not used so regularly in Japan or because the TokyoDev page (and similar ones I found) focus more on those other languages?

Since I also don’t want to code forever and like to manage projects again I’d also like to know if it would lead to problems if I would get a managing position without knowing much about the Japanese working culture.

That’s in line with what Stack Overflow found globally.

To apply for a working visa, you need a company to sponsor you. Basically any company that hires internationally will help you with this, as it doesn’t cost them money beyond the time it takes to assemble the paperwork. You’d still be applying yourself, but they should give you guidance. The same thing with renewing (which is fairly trivial to do).

I found 8% of international developers use C#, so there are jobs that use it (though it is relatively unpopular). They’re not the internationally friendly tech startups that tend to advertise on TokyoDev though (and I haven’t researched what kind of companies they are).

Japanese language skills are more likely to be required for management positions, but positions that don’t require any language abilities do exist.

Thank you for the insights and the link to the statistics.
Guess I will polish my React skills a bit… :slight_smile: